Recently it became known that the USAF F-16 Variable In-flight Simulator Aircraft (VISTA) was redesignated from NF-16D to the X-62A.
On 14 June 2021, VISTA 86-0048 (construction number 1V-1), which is operated by the USAF Test Pilot School (TPS), with the support of Calspan and Lockheed Martin, gained the X-Plane status.
The X designation denotes aircraft that are designed for testing configurations of a radical nature. X aircraft are not normally intended for use as tactical aircraft. Following its redesignation to X-62A, VISTA now joins a storied family of aircraft such as the Bell X-1, the first airplane to break the sound barrier, and the hypersonic, rocket-powered North American X-15, which holds the record as the fastest manned aircraft.
The X-62A VISTA started its life as a Block 30 F-16D. Throughout the years it has received numerous upgrades and modifications. VISTA was originally given the N prefix (NF-16D) to denote its status as Special Test aircraft. The N prefix indicates aircraft on a special test programme whose configuration is so drastically changed that return to its original configuration or conversion to standard operational configuration is beyond practicable or economic limits.
The X-62A is currently involved in an upgrade programme which will fully replace the VISTA Simulation System (VSS). This upgrade programme will also add a new system called the System for Autonomous Control of Simulation (SACS) to support autonomy testing for the Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) Skyborg programme. Skyborg is an autonomy-focused capability that will enable the USAF to operate and sustain low-cost, teamed aircraft that can thwart adversaries with quick, decisive actions in contested environments.
On 12 February 2019, Scramble Magazine wrote about the NF-16D VISTA receiving new colours.
Photo by USAF